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San Francisco Summers

Published:

Last Edited: June 12, 2014, 1:56 pm

My aunt always wonders where my father got his talent for art.

This seems to puzzle her to no end.

"No one else in the family could draw."

She says the same thing when a family member becomes afflicted with a medical problem.

"Gee,no one else in the family had allergies."

Some things just aren't inherited.

So who really knows when or where my father got his passion for art?

I always call San Francisco "my second home". I was being dragged to museums there before I could talk. There are photos of me sleeping in my mother's arms as she is walking and perusing art on the walls in many of those "tombs" I used to call them. Dad was always the photographer capturing everything. If he didn't have a paintbrush in his hand he had the Rolleiflex camera around his neck.

My father went to college in San Francisco. To study art,natch.

One of his teachers was Wayne Thiebaud. You may not recognize his name but you may recognize some of his art. He had a very distinctive style as you can see below and is still living. Born in 1920,he's 93 now.

Wayne+Thiebaud.jpg   Wayne Thiebaud 

Dad mostly did still life and landscapes. But never with any people in them. My taste runs to portraits. I feel paintings or photos gotta have a heart in them somewhere. When I look at some of his paintings of apples and pears on a dish with a knife next to them...well,they make me feel...still,I guess. Perhaps that's why they're called that,lol. I don't feel a pulse,something living. Maybe I'm so used to seeing them that the "deeper meaning" is lost.     

After my father died I went to pick up some of his work that he had showing in a small gallery downtown. The lady there told me that "your father painted like the old masters." This was suiting because I never felt there was anything "young" about him. He always seemed so old to me even though he wasn't. I even used to call him grandpa sometimes. 

Every year after school was out we'd pack up the Rambler station wagon and go on our summer vacation for 2 weeks. The first stop was always San Francisco. There usually was    some art retrospective showing that my father had to see. Edward Hopper was his favorite artist and I see his influence in my father's paintings.

My sister and I would groan all the way there because we wanted to get to Marriott's Great America! Who wanted to see some old paintings in a dark dismal museum? Oh,how we dreaded it!

It's too bad my sis and I didn't appreciate art because we saw a lot of famous work back in the day. Who? I haven't the slightest clue. Have to confer with my mom on that one but seeing as she was about as interested as we were,she might have forgotten too.

My father always liked to drive us by the place he lived in during his college days. We'd pull up in front of one of those tall skinny San Francisco houses that look like they are glued and leaning together side by side. He and a roomate lived on the third floor.

"There was a car mechanic who lived under us. When we'd go to use the shower there was always a ring of grease around the tub." he told us.

Then we'd have to go visit his cousin Russell who owned a shoe shop on Balboa street. The shop was old and looked like it was filled with shoes from the 1930's. Russell would be talk talk talking,typical Italian,lol. "I think he does more talking then selling shoes." my mother always used to say out of the side of her mouth. He also repaired them.

Quite a few years ago I took my cousin to San Francisco and we stopped by to say hi to Russell. The shoe shop is no longer in business and he is retired. He looks like he hasn't aged a day since those long ago summers. And he was still talking!

"Let-a-me change-a my shirt and we go into the city." he greeted us. He went into his bedroom and we could still hear him talking to us through the door. Twenty minutes later he finally emerged. We figured if it took him this long just to "change-a his shirt" this would turn into an all day affair and we didn't have the time since we had other plans like walking across the Golden Gate bridge.

He had a painting or two of my father's hanging on the wall. Just about every relative has one. We are my father's personal art gallery.

We finally decided Russell would take us over to some farmer's market instead. He volunteered to take us since he knew the way. My cousin sat in front. I got in the back of his gray 1980's looking sedan.

More talking ensued as we made our way down the streets. Suddenly we were on a busy boulevard surrounded by cars on either side of us. We were stopped in the middle lane.

Russell turns around in the driver's seat and starts leaning towards me with his arm up like he's waving to someone out my window.

"You see-a...we need-a to get in the right hand-a lane and the blink-a light is out-a. Have to get it fix-a. But if I wave-a sometimes the people-a they let me in." he said very seriously.

Then his face broke into a "bigg-a" smile as he started waving to the cars and soon one let him in,lol.

When we got back to his place later on we started saying our goodbyes. Oh,but we "couldn't-a leave-a yet-a"! He had boxes stacked up in his kitchen full of stuff. As he dug around he pulled out a bottle of wine and cookies. We didn't get out the door until he'd given us pretty much everything he owned,lol.

Going off the track a little there but you know how one memory can lead to another,lol.

Looking back,it was always exciting nearing San Francisco even though we knew we'd be stuck in a museum for half the day. First you felt the air turn cool. The sky was always enveloped in fog. Then you waited to see the "junk art" alongside the freeway next to the water. It no longer exists but it was fun looking at the different sculptures. I actually found an article about them today....so glad someone remembers!!

It even mentions the Nut Tree which was a favorite place of ours. Actually THAT was the first stop before San Fran. It was like a huge candy store and had a restuarant. It was the first time I ever tasted avocado in my sandwich. There was also a little train you could ride around the whole complex. We always loved that train ride! They had big wooden rocking horses and wooden cut outs that you stuck your head through so your parents could take a picture of you looking like a monkey or some other silly animal. And just before we left we always got to pick out some candy. Once I got this huge lollipop that lasted for the rest of the summer,lol.

 

http://blog.sfgate.com/parenting/2008/07/14/gone-but-not-forgotten-emeryville-mudflat-sculptures/

 

You could always feel the underlying current of excitement like you were going some place important as you crossed over the Bay Bridge. The tires going ka-klunk! ka-klunk! as you rode over it for miles and miles it seemed. That sound used to scare me sometimes because I thought the tires were going to pop. Stopping at the toll booth to pay... I always wanted to pay the man but my dad didn't let me. But we knew there were lots of fun things ahead besides the museum like going to the aquarium and the beach to play in the sand while the wind whipped your hair.

I just remember that cool air and having to wear a sweater in the summer! And then after San Fran we were on our way to Monterey and Carmel. Staying at the motels (I don't think my father knew what the word hotel was...besides he was a little on the cheap side,lol) I remember losing my tooth once during a trip and worried that the tooth fairy wouldn't be able to find me. All was well the next morning when I found the quarter under my pillow. She didn't forget me after all :)

My father never drew anything on our summer trips. He turned into the photographer instead. I've got albums full of photos of old houses in neighborhoods I don't recognize. Some of them have shown up in his charcoal drawings. He loved old houses. And trees. And fruit on platters. And wine bottles alongside of fruit platters.

And doodling. I didn't realized how much he doodled until I started cleaning out the studio a few years after he died. Or how much work he had accomplished until I started digging through the stacks of paintings in the cubby holes. And one painting in particular I forgot about.

A portrait of me.

One day he asked me to pose for him. I remember sitting in a chair one afternoon while he worked away behind his easel wearing my favorite black shirt that had sparkly colored thread running through it.

Don't ever remember looking at it after he was done. I wouldn't have even recognized myself if I hadn't seen the black shirt the girl in the painting wore. It didn't really look like me but I knew it was. Maybe his interpretation. Portraits weren't his strong suit. I looked...still. Maybe that's how he saw things or wanted things to be. Inanimate. Quiet. Like he was.

Through the years I haven't been back to my "second home" as much as I'd like to. Last time was to a World Series playoff game back when Barry Bonds played on the Giants. Gee,has it been that long? What the heck year was that?

The best part of that game? When the planes went soaring overhead after the national anthem was sang by LeAnne Rimes,I think. Wow. That was so exciting! Can't remember if that was the Blue Angels or not. But that's the moment that stuck out to me.

Too bad it's so expensive to live there. I'd love waking up to that cool foggy air everyday. Might sound funny coming from a California chick but I'm not a big fan of the sun.

I might have "left my heart in San Francisco" but I can thank my father and the trusty Rolleiflex that provided me with tons of photos of those wonderful times.

Think I'll go crank the air-conditioner up and put on a sweater.

Now if only I could find some sand......

Entry #97

Comments

1.
CARBOBComment by CARBOB - June 12, 2014, 3:10 pm
I lived in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale for 8 years before I moved to Modesto. Bought the last house in Modesto under $100,000. Lived there for 5 years, working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center(SLAC), commuting two hours each way. I also worked At Space Systems /Loral for 8 years. Had some interesting experiences at both jobs. One of the experiences was the earthquake that brought down part of the bay bridge, during the World Series. I was forty feet underground, when it hit. That was an eye opener.
2.
Comment by lottolaughs - June 13, 2014, 7:45 pm
Two hours commuting? Yikes. I'd love to hear more about your earthquake experience. Sound like a blog entry to me! Do tell!
3.
rdgrnrComment by rdgrnr - June 13, 2014, 10:48 pm
Nice story, thanks.

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